A founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum and elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, says the secessionist agitation by the embattled leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, weakens the chances of the Igbo people to produce a credible presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections.
He spoke in an interview with Channels TV on Sunday monitored by The PUNCH.
According to the 96-year-old statesman, the South-East geopolitical zone must convince Nigerians beyond any reasonable doubt that it is ready to occupy the exalted office in 2023.
Kanu, who is in the custody of the Department of States Services, is facing terrorism-related charges before Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja. He and his group had listed alleged marginalisation of the Igbo people in governance, insecurity, as part of the reasons for his agitation.
With the 2023 elections fast approaching, demands for a President from the South-East continues to rise, with socio-political groups like the Ohanaeze Ndigbo; as well as the five governors in the South-East calling for the zone to produce the next President, after the eight-year regime of the incumbent, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who is from Daura, Katsina State.
Ohanaeze and the governors led by Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State claimed that no President has emerged from the zone since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.
Some politicians in the South-East have since defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress and opposition Peoples Democratic Party as part of permutations for the next presidential election.
Speaking during the interview, Yakasai said the Igbo people must not sit back and demand that the next Presidency be zoned to them.
He said, “The card is on the Southeastern people’s desk. It is up to them to try to reach out. I’m a strong supporter of a President from the South after Buhari and also if he can come from the South-East I have no problem.
“My quarrel is that this is not something you just stay at home and pray that people will just dash it to you; you have to show interest, you have to be serious, you have to try to convince people that you are really up to the task. This is what in my opinion is missing from the South-East.
“There is that desire on their part but they are not exact in their position to manifest that desire to convince people that are rarely serious about it.
“There is this anxiety in Nigeria about the position of the South-East because it is surprising to many people including people like me…This Nnamdi Kanu who ordinarily to me would not be a good candidate for the governorship of any of the South-Eastern state is now claiming the attention (and) support of prominent people in the South-East is making people doubt if the South-East is really ready to produce a credible candidate that would help Nigeria as a whole. That doubt is there.”